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August 2004

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Birdwatchers take note of new DVD field guide

In 1934, Roger Tory Peterson's "A Field Guide to Birds" created a surge of interest in birdwatching as a hobby. Seventy years later, a Fort Collins videographer has put more than 300 birds and their songs on DVD and VHS.

According to the 2001 National Survey on Recreation and the Environment, 33 percent of Americans engage in some kind of outdoor birdwatching activity at least once a year.

"Better Birdwatching in the West," a DVD field guide to birds of western North America, features three hours of audio and video of birds, as well as examples of preferred habitats for each species. The video is also available in standard VHS format with a printed timeline, but DVD technology allows the viewer to quickly select species of interest from on-screen menus. The video and audio can be effectively used in the field with portable, battery-operated DVD players as small as 6x6 inches.

Videographer Joe LaFleur authored the DVD and produced it in Fort Collins. A wildlife biologist graduate from Colorado State University, he is store manager at Wild Birds Unlimited in Fort Collins. Over the past 10 years, LaFleur traveled extensively throughout the West to collect the video content.

"The DVD is a celebration of birds that will appeal to beginning and advanced birdwatchers alike," said LaFleur. The DVDs ($29.99) and videos ($19.99) are currently available at Wild Birds Unlimited, 248 E. Monroe Ave., 225-2557, and on the Better Birdwatching web site at The web site lists all species appearing on the DVD.

Some of the more notable segments include the elaborate breeding displays, strutting and dancing on spring lekking grounds of the greater sage-grouse and sharp-tailed grouse; the dancing courtship behavior of sandhill cranes; bright and colorful birds like Bullock's oriole and western tanager; and birds with complex songs like sparrows and warblers.

Some of the birds may be considered rare because they are so hard to find, LaFleur noted, listing the whooping crane, peregrine falcon and sage sparrow as examples.

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